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Is sacrificing democracy for the markets worth the cost?

November 17, 2011 1 comment

We were told the other day at work that it is against health and safety to bring a cup of tea upstairs from the kitchen to the call centre. This is because we could spill it on the stairs (or ourselves), and cause someone to slip. Fair enough, I’m not here to argue against that, but would it be an arrestable offence to take a cup of tea upstairs?

I somehow doubt it.

So I was a little shocked with how innocuous the news was that the Occupy Wall Street camp in New York had been evicted. When peaceful protests are being clamped down on by governments I’d think it would get more coverage.

In less than three hours the camp had been dismantled and cleaned and over 200 people arrested. It was explained that the plans had been drawn up a few weeks ago, but it was only yesterday that Mayor, Michael Bloomberg decided that the presence of the protesters was offensive enough for him to give the go-ahead for their removal.

It seems like Bloomberg has cited public health and safety concerns as the reason that people were evicted, but is it now an arrestable offence to breach health and safety?

Democratic protests are demolished by an integrated ruling elite

As OLSX is threatened eviction, the bankers they campaign against are put in charge in Europe

Like my cup of tea at work, which I continue to take upstairs because I feel that not having a cup of tea at my desk breaches my natural rights, it seems like the rights of protesters are being trampled as equally in the West as they were before the Arab Spring in the East.

Is it behind a wall of health and safety procedures that democracy dies? Is the right to peaceful protest is only available when it’s convenient or if it doesn’t go on too long?

And yesterday the City of London Corporation has re-launched its bid to remove the protesters from outside St Paul’s. Now the protesters are determined to have another go, but with the camps being raided and dismantled across the globe by somewhat surly councillors and politicians, I have my doubts about their likelihood to succeed in achieving anything.

The message from the top, or The US Supreme Court at least, is that our inalienable right to peaceful protest only goes so far as our leaders are willing to let it. This defeats the purpose if our leaders are the ones being complained about. We can protest the war in Iraq, the cuts to tuition fees, anything we like, as long as we are prepared to be clamped down on by the police, or watch our next generation be kettled, or move when the police tell us to.

Last week, the students held another demo against fees, and from the pictures it basically looked like a giant police training exercise in kettling people. The crowd was surrounded by officers, and not allowed to deviate from the path. Any attempt to meet up with other blocks of resistance was nipped in the bud.

Am I the only one who is scared?

And not just because the ruling elite are showing that their silk gloves are actually steel gauntlets, but because the gradual integration of our ruling elite, the media, and the financial sector.

We now have bankers in charge of Italy and Greece, in the shape of Messrs Monti and Papademos. Surely the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 showed the inability of the financial sector to look out for any interests other than their own? If not, then maybe the outrage at stricter ring-fencing, or just generally their refusal to make any changes to the system that has made a few billions.

The only thing which used to allow me to sleep easy at night is the distinction between the groups that control our world – the financial sector, the politicians, the media, and religion.

Many could claim that the influence of religion is negligible, but what religion and the media both do is perpetuate the myths our society lives by. Our politicians control the legislation our lives are limited by, and the financial sector moves the money our lives rely on. Separate and monitored, we have nothing to fear, but nowadays politicians are unafraid to be religious, or in bed with the media, the protests are being condemned by priests, and financial leaders are now being begged by the markets they control to take charge of governments.

It should worry everyone that market driven leaders are ending up on our political shelves. We have the right to vote our leaders in – even if as pointed out by Archie Bland in the I Paper: “There is nothing to stop total idiots trying to be leader of the free world.” We did not vote for technocrats, and neither did the Italians and Greeks. Although they say it is in everyone’s best interests, it is in the interests of the markets first and foremost that they have taken charge, and these are what they will protect.

I can only see it as a conflict of interests if in any democratic country the needs of the few are subservient to the needs of the many. But this is what is happening. Our Government is determined to keep the markets happy and Europe is begging technocrats to take charge, effectively breaking the democratic process. It may not be the end of the world now, but it sets a scary precedent. And, even if they sort it out, how do we know that power will filter back down?

We should all be afraid, not just youths, students, trade unionists, protesters, communists and anarchists. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it is the quiet acquiescence of the many that allows a minority of partisans, with sycophantic or selfish interests, to take control. We all have our heads so buried in the sand that we can’t see that the foundations of democracy, our most sacred ideology, are being undermined for the needs of capitalism. Surely it should be the other way round.

 

 

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People Power only begins with peaceful protests

Occupy the London Stock Exchange is the most recent of many peaceful protests
Lord Kitchener asked the British public to unite, so now do OLSX

 I raise money for a homeless charity at the minute. It’s not glamorous, but I’d say that I am proud of the fact that for now, the fruits of my labour don’t line some fat cats wallet. So, instead of camping outside St Paul’s, I can go to work, knowing in my heart of hearts that I am helping some of the 99 per cent.

Unfortunately, the other reason I’m not down on the picket lines is that it is unlikely to ever influence the government to change anything. It seems like even the most famous peaceful protesters, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jnr, were assassinated before any kind of long-lasting change was implemented.

An assassination can be a rallying cry to the half-hearted, the meek, and the ignorant. When a death is witnessed and felt by enough people, the shared grief and the anger boil over. It can be a call to arms or simply the straw that broke the poor camel’s back.

It can also be a call for unity like the day Diana died, or 9/11. The world in their shared grief and fear forget their woes and sat glued to the TV watching the news as it came in. The old and young, the rich and poor, the one per cent and the 99 per cent, people of all races, were brought together into a united whole, together in their grief. When a whole people, a whole country, or even the whole world comes together under emotions so strong it boggles the mind the sheer power that collective could have.

It was Marianne Williamson in Return to Love: Reflections on a Course in Miracles, who said it best:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?”

And who are we not to be so? We have groups of the Occupy the London Stock Exchange in cities throughout our country. The National Association of Head Teachers has for the first time in over 100 years voted to strike, the other unions are rallying as well. The students have twice been out in force and even the uneducated have tried to make their voices heard in this Summer’s riots.

But, it is not enough. Because there are still so many out there who feel inadequate, who are too scared to be powerful beyond imagination.

It is easy to get scared, the world can be terrifying. But in the end it is unsatisfying and hollow, and results in a gradual degradation of the soul. The democratic capitalism we live under, is run by politicians, the markets, civil servants, and diffused through to us by the media, advertising and marketing. It is the people at the top of these trades that want us to feel awful, ugly, untalented and squalid, because they want us to feel brilliant, beautiful, talented and fabulous on their terms, using their products and in a way that perpetuates all the power in their hands. It is about control, and it is so easy to buy into it that we can all be forgiven for doing so.

Their path to beauty, talent, splendour and brilliance is easy to follow. You jump on a career ladder and get a salary. You start to forget how you could be brilliant et al without these things. Suddenly you have a mortgage and a family, a financial and social debt that will never be lifted. By this time you are quite old, and set in your ways, and to imagine the world any differently is scary indeed.

This is why it is only the young, the students, and the unions, as well as a limited number of idealists are the only ones who still believe that a world without the one versus the 99 per cent is less scary than this one. A small group that feel that they have so little to lose that anything will be better than what we have already.

But this leaves a majority who cling on to what they have, proud that they have touched brilliance and talent et al through following the crowd. They have buried their heads in the sand because a change in the fundamental order of things is too scary to behold. ‘Imagine all the things we could lose,’ they think, and to protect what they hold dear, they condemn those who fight for change.

This has turned illiterate children into vandals and thugs, students into anarchists, and unionists into communists. It helps protect the illusory world, because even though it isn’t perfect, it is safe and secure. We have worked so hard to reach the levels of achievement that our leaders and idols have told us to emulate that to try and find those things within ourselves is too hard 

But, with the financial crisis this could change. Maybe it will be the spark that wakes up a nation. When people see their children being kettled by police, or their savings disappear, or their pensions taken, maybe they will realise, like the young and the idealistic, that things aren’t, and never have been, as good as our politicians and co. have painted them.

If we are going to find our light, and our brilliance, we must shrug off the conceptions of these ideas that are forced on us, and accept the ideas of these things we have of our own. Only then will we be able to stand together, humble and proud, yet united. Our media fed ideas of beauty and talent have done nothing to nurture either of these things, but only to make us arrogant, divided and suspicious of each other. So we must shrug off the yoke of the one per cent, and the cronies and sycophants who are their priests, and create something better or at least fairer.

This would, unfortunately, require a lot more than a student protest or a union strike. It would require the biggest mass walkout ever seen, across not just the public, but the private sector too.

It isn’t just for us, for we are too far gone to touch it, only to create it. It is for the future, and the children who will remember us not as the people who accepted greed, hoping we could one day be greedy, but renounced it, so that they could enjoy equality.